Have you noticed that the terminology of having a “personal relationship with Jesus” never occurs in the New Testament? That should give those who want to be biblical in our Christianity some pause before using this terminology.
Author Joel Miller researched the expressions “personal relationship” and “personal savior” (Joel Miller, “Why you need more than a personal relationship with Jesus,” http://web.archive.org/web/20141006220205/http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/twocities/personal-relationship-jesus). Miller discovered that the phrases, rather alarmingly, were largely unknown barely exist before the 1970s. At that point, they take off like pair of rockets.
These phrases have been popular during the adult lives of most of us, so we think they are normal. “Personal relationship” and “personal Savior” are the ways many communicate Christianity in our time. But does usage make the phrases correct?
Whenever we speak about faith being personal, the tendency is to convey the idea of what applies primarily (or even only) to me. “Personal” puts in the realm of “tastes” and “preferences,” but faith applies universally (Acts 17:30).
Miller correctly comments: “So faith in this sense is most certainly not personal. And neither is it impersonal. It’s a problematic adjective to apply because while it pertains to an individual, the faith is far larger than the individual.”
If we sense the need to use the phrase “personal relationship,” it is more in line with the Bible to speak of a “kingdom relationship.” Instead of referring to a “personal Savior,” we ought to speak of the universal King and Savior (Acts 2:36; 5:31; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1, 11; 2:20; 1 John 4:14).